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GRASSROOTS: The MSM Initiative Blog

amfAR's MSM Initiative supports grassroots MSM and transgender organizations responding to HIV, and advocates for effective HIV policies and increased funding for MSM/TG globally.

Burundi Activists Challenge Government to Provide HIV Services for MSM

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Posted by Kent Klindera, February 15, 2012

 MOLI1Thierry, Tony, and Christian outside the Remurka Center
I have just departed Bujumbura, Burundi, an East African country still struggling to overcome the challenges of civil war. Formerly a Belgian colony, for many years Burundi has struggled to overcome ethnic divisions. Though finally witnessing relative peace, government services in Burundi are still quite lacking, and are rife with corruption. Despite weak government support, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community have taken action to deliver services to their members. 

I spent a full day with three young activists—Christian, Tony, and birthday boy Thierry—who were quite eager to show me their rather impressive LGBT community center. All in their early 20s, Christian, Tony, and Thierry are most impressive; truly change-makers in a country in transition. Working with funding from the European Commission, via the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance, four LGBT specific community organizations are housed together in the Remurka Center to create unity and promote a common agenda. MOLI2Tony, Christian, and Thierry in the MOLI office Rainbow Candlelight Foundation provides psycho-social support and education to gay men and other MSM (men who have sex with men) on HIV issues. Together for Women's Rights focuses on the needs of lesbians. Humare conducts community mobilization activities.

Christian works with MOLI (Mouvement pour les Libertés Individuelles), a new amfAR grantee that focuses on national and local policy activities impacting LGBT persons and MSM. Currently, MSM are recognized as a vulnerable population in HIV strategic documents in Burundi; however, the government has not provided much support for MSM-specific services. Quite rare in Africa, the government actually has provided satchels of water-based lubricant along with male condoms. However, neither funding for capacity-building of these community groups nor education for health service providers on MSM-specific HIV needs is being provided. Over the next year, amfAR will support MOLI’s advocacy efforts, which challenge government to provide more opportunity for MSM leadership in decision making bodies, and hold government accountable for prior strategic framework commitments that include the support of MSM-specific HIV services.   


Learn more about MOLI on their blog